Stanley (Lawrence) Elkin 1930–
American novelist and short story writer.
Elkin's purpose in writing, aside from indulging his love of language, is to offer different perspectives on, and new significance to, the unremarkable. He combines conventional and avant-garde elements in his stories to provide a freshness of image, character, and situation, and to demonstrate the value and interdependence of the traditional and the contemporary. His humor shows the often tragicomic nature and effects of obsession.
Elkin's heroes are bachelors and orphans who have sacrificed traditional family and community life for personal success. Though isolated by choice, these men attempt to compensate for their loneliness by substituting the love of crowds for personal relationships. Elkin's heroes are all salesmen in some way, often in transit, searching for fulfillment. Whether the protagonist is the franchiser Ben Flesh, the entrepreneur Leo Feldman, or the radio announcer Dick Gibson, America becomes a vast sales territory where one Holiday Inn is interchangeable with every other. The result is a feeling of being at home everywhere but having no real home anywhere. Success for Elkin's characters can range from James Boswell's wryly humorous determination to be a professional acquaintance of the famous to George Mills's thought-provoking intention to rise above the traditional ordinariness of his forebears and do something well in his lifetime.
Stanley Elkin won the 1983 National Book Critics Circle Award for his novel George Mills (1982). Some critics have called it a "breakthrough" book because of its potential for enlarging Elkin's readership. The many writers and reviewers who have admired Elkin throughout his career have expressed satisfaction that he is finally receiving the attention and acclaim he has long deserved.
(See also CLC, Vols. 4, 6, 9, 14; Contemporary Authors, Vols. 9-12, rev. ed.; Contemporary Authors New Revision Series, Vol. 8; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vol. 2; and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980.)